I’m a runner: Leon Ockenden

I liked the idea of doing sport at school, but I was terrible at it. It was made clear to me that my time might be better spent elsewhere.

I helped in our family bakery from the time I was 14 and then I worked in the kitchen at a posh London hotel. Back then I worked all the time, so I never had any time to exercise. It was only later, when I went to drama school, that I discovered running.

Growing up in a bakery, I’ve always loved cooking. That’s led me to a cooking slot on ITV programme This Morning. And that’s why running is brilliant – you can eat loads and know you can run it off.

Being able to run has given me a new confidence. When I was in the TV series Waterloo Road, I played a PE teacher. The director was really impressed that I could run about like a real PE teacher would.

My biggest incentive to run more came eight years ago, when I appeared naked on stage in the West End. I was in a play called Plague over England and because I was eager to look in good shape while wearing nothing, I ran loads.

Running has always been a form of active meditation for me. If I need to learn lines I go over them, go for a run and when I return they have cemented themselves into my brain.

I love running along the hilly coast when I’m back in my native Cornwall. My regular five-mile circuit where I live, in London, is out to Alexandra Palace or up to Hampstead Heath.

The first organised race I did was a 10K in London’s Victoria Park. I trained hard with an acting friend who I shared a flat with at the time.

I have joined a running club, which has hugely improved my running. I love the social side, but also doing speed sessions or the type of intensive training I would never do on my own.

I recently had my running form assessed. I was advised to work on my hamstrings and glutes because I was relying too much on my quads.

Two hours before a morning run, I make myself a killer porridge with cashew nuts, for added protein. And after a long Sunday run, a traditional roast with fantastic Yorkshire puddings keeps me motivated on a cold day.

All I seem to wear these days is running gear, mainly in lurid, luminous colours. It means I only have to put on a shirt and my wife, Vanessa, thinks I look amazing.

I do find running around the streets a different experience depending on where I do it. In Manchester I give a nod and smile when I pass a fellow runner, who’ll often do the same back. But when I do it in London I’m ignored. I’m just the crazy guy grinning at them!


Running gear provided by Iffley Road.

Leon supports WellChild, the national charity for sick children. To find out how you can support it by taking part in events, visit wellchild.org.uk